Archive for the ‘TV Shows’ Category

I certainly hope so.

You’ve heard me talk about Teen Wolf time and time again, but I hope you don’t mind me bringing it up once more. (Okay, it won’t just be once more. But in my defense, it’s a pretty big part of my life, and I usually don’t stop thinking about it for more than a couple of hours at a time.)

Teen Wolf is not Glee.

And by that I mean Glee is a show about problems. They take a problem — alcoholism, homophobia, bullying, etc. — and turn it into a PSA. It’s an episode meant to highlight the realism of the show in order to portray the real world to the audience.

I’m not a Glee fan anymore, but this approach is fine. That’s what the show is designed to do and there are obviously enough people who enjoy and care about the way the show is written.

Teen Wolf is the opposite of that. Teen Wolf presents an idealistic world. There are still “problems,” but they don’t highlight them in order to make a statement about them. The one major plus to Teen Wolf is that this is a world without homophobia.

How amazing is that?

Teen Wolf Danny Smile

One of the most popular characters on the show is Danny. Danny is gay, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a lacrosse player, he’s a hacker, he’s super smart, and pretty popular. Everyone likes Danny. Everyone. There’s no bullying here.

I’m not here to say which approach is better, though it’s pretty obvious which version I prefer. I am, however, here to ask a question: Can this idealism, as seen on TV, influence the real world?

As I said above, I hope so.

Presenting an ideal world like this has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it isn’t very realistic. Saying there isn’t homophobia in the world would be a grossly ignorant statement. On the other hand, a show like Teen Wolf portrays a world in which it’s okay to be gay and shows how it really has no effect on the story. It isn’t a Big Deal for Danny like it’s been a Big Deal for Kurt.

I don’t know if a show like Teen Wolf will ever have an effect on our world. It isn’t going to change the course of the human race overnight, but I hope it has effected someone, somewhere. If this issue — and other hot-button issues, for that matter — are presented positively in the media more often, I can only hope they’ll begin to change minds.

Sometimes you need a show like Glee, but sometimes you need a show like Teen Wolf. It’s just too bad that there’s more of the former than the latter.

What do you think? Does a television show or movie or book have the ability to present a world in which we want to live and have that presentation effect the world in which we DO live? Are there any examples where this may have happened over the course of several years or decades? I’m honestly curious!

It’s sort of a rhetorical question because, yes, there are some things that are still surprising. But more on that in a minute.

I watch a lot of television and movies, and I read a lot of books. I don’t get taken by surprise too often. It’s not actually a bad thing — more often than not we know how the journey will end, but it’s the act of going on that journey that is the most interesting part.

Any action movie or adventure book can attest to this. Nine times out of ten the hero will save the day, get the girl, and blow stuff up. By the end of the movie we know that most of the main characters will be alive, the problem will be solved, and everyone will pretty much go home happy.

Is there a problem with an ending like that? Not usually, no. It’s satisfying, even if we knew it was coming. It’s what leads up to that point that makes the story interesting. It’s not the “if,” it’s the “how.”

Dexter PosterBut sometimes I just really want to be shocked, you know? I want to be totally blindsided by a plot or a character’s motivations. I want to never see it coming and have it literally knock me off my feet. It’s fun to be that surprised after feeling like you’ve figured out the plot of something ten minutes or ten pages into a new story.

Last week I talked about how Fringe did this to me. It was a great feeling. But then as I was watching Dexter, I figured out exactly who the major evil villain guy was an episode or two before the big reveal. It wasn’t exactly hard — you just think about whose betrayal would have the biggest impact on the characters, and there you have it.

It’s sort of a catch-22 isn’t it? You want your big reveal to have impact and be believable. But oftentimes, in order for that to happen, you have to lay the groundwork of that plot, which can show up as a big, flashing neon sign. If you don’t lay that groundwork, the reveal will be shocking, but it won’t have the impact you were hoping for. If it’s just a random person, it won’t affect your main characters as much as if it were their best friend.

I think the best way to solve this problem is with red herrings. You want it to seem like the bad guy (or whatever shocking thing you’re trying to keep secret — it doesn’t have to be a villain) could be multiple people. Or you want to lead your audience in one direction, and then pull them in the other at the last second. This doesn’t always work either, because sometimes a change in direction like that can be anticipated, but it’s definitely worth a try.

What do you think? Do you have trouble being surprised by the turn of events you witness on screen or in a book? Without giving away spoilers (just in case!), what’s a shocking moment you remember that really took you off guard?

I promise one of these days I’ll stop talking about television and get back to things like books and writing. But can you blame me? The Fall TV lineup is in full force, and I’m being inundated by wonderful new stories and characters. I love it!

One of those shows is Agents of SHIELD. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s basically a spinoff TV series of The Avengers. It exists in the Marvel universe and details the goings-on of the level 7 agents in SHIELD. The first two episodes have already aired, and it’s quality television. And it’s so nice to be getting more from the Marvel universe on a weekly basis.

So, why should you be watching?

  1. Agents of ShieldCoulson lives! That’s right, Agent Coulson did not perish in The Avengers. Well, he did. But then something happened in Tahiti. I won’t give away many details, though. Not that there are many. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the major mysteries of the series. And I’m so excited to suffer through the agonizing clues and tid-bits we’ll hopefully be getting every week.
  2. Fitz-Simmons. Fitz and Simmons are just plain adorable. They’ve both got amazing accents and are super cute. And super smart. They’re not field agents, which makes them a little bit of a liability when guns are a-blazing. But boy to they have the brains. And they put them to good use too. That’s my favorite kind of hero. :)
  3. They’re just humans. SHIELD is a division of the government, and they’re all humans. There are no superheroes here, although they are highly trained individuals. There’s nothing wrong with the likes of Captain America or Thor or the Hulk, but it’s nice to have those Average Joes around to save the day once in a while. Especially in a world that’s going crazy now that everyone knows aliens exist.
  4. Amazing tech. Seriously. I was super impressed by the first episode and all of the little gadgets they brought out. Fitz has these awesome drones that have the seven dwarves’ names (so cute) that both him and Simmons talk to. (Did I mention Fitz-Simmons are adorable?)
  5. It’s got a little bit of everything. You like superheroes? Check. What about secret agent stuff? Double check. Great characters? Funny dialogue? Sci-fi elements? Check, check, and check. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy at least one element of this show. It’s just getting started, and yet I’m already invested in the long haul. But, hey. That’s what happens when you put “Joss Whedon” in a sentence and pair it up with, well, just about anything.

Are you watching Agents of SHIELD? Who’s your favorite character so far?

Fringe Season 1I’ve recently dipped my toes into Fringe, which is a show about a small group of people that investigates the unexplainable. The cool thing about this show is that it hovers somewhere between magic and science. It seems unbelievable, and yet you can’t help but wonder if, one day, the things they’re doing may just be possible.

Fringe was one of those shows I had heard good things about but hadn’t paid much attention to. It sounded good, what little I knew about it, but I didn’t pay it much mind. More than likely I had plenty of other things to keep myself busy while it was on air. But now that it’s on Netflix in its entirety, I can go through it as quickly or as slowly as I want.

Spoiler alert: If I had the time, I’d sit down and marathon all 100 episodes in as little time as possible.

Fringe actually had one of the best pilots of any TV show I’ve ever seen. Pilots are, unfortunately, very give-or-take, with a lot more taking than giving. You can’t really blame them, as they’re there to set up the story. There’s a lot of exposition, you have to establish relationships, and you have to set up an entire season of a series within the usual 45 minutes or so.

It can be tough for any show, even those with big names attached to them. You need to hook your audience, but you also have a lot of information to slog through. It’s a fine balance, which is why I usually give a show a couple of episodes before I decide to drop it or not. (Unless that show happens to be called The Cape. I had trouble getting through even one episode. It was TERRIBLE.)

But Fringe  was different. Granted, it was nearly a two hour premiere, so they had a bit more room to get the story rolling, but that doesn’t matter. The pilot was good, man. Like, really good.

It started off in a slow and intimate scene that did not feel like it was dragging on. You immediately wanted to know who the characters were and what kind of relationship they had. And that was established through minimal dialogue and a lot of action, which as any good writer knows, is an excellent thing.

The mystery was set up fairly quickly, as well as the whole the-under-dog-is-our-champion-so-we-immediately-connect-with-the-main-character thing. Or at least that was how I felt.

And from then on it was a bounce between mystery, action, and the relationship of those characters. There was a HUGE twist that I didn’t see coming, too. It actually caught me off guard, which doesn’t usually happen, so I really appreciated it.

But even beyond that, beyond the main focus of the mystery, we get introduced to some other characters that quickly become leads in this story. They’re set up perfectly, and there’s just enough animosity and humor to keep things interesting.

I may be a bit biased here because I love complicated shows with a lot of heart, which Fringe seems to have in spades, but this show really is excellent, and I would advise you — if you haven’t already — to definitely check it out. Report back and let me know what you think!

Here’s the next post in this series where I discuss TV shows and movies and the knowledge that we can gain from watching them. We can apply that knowledge to our writing. As always, I never pretend to be an expert. I just like exploring my own thoughts on the matter as I write these blog posts! I welcome all comments and would love to hear what you think about this topic.

Make sure you check out my previous post, titled, “How to be the strong and silent type, with Chewbacca from Star Wars.”

Veronica Mars Season 1 Kristen BellAs writers, it can be difficult to create a flawed character. I think this comes from the fact that we put so much of ourselves in so many of our characters. And who wants to admit they’re flawed?

The truth is, however, that we are. And our characters should be too. “To err is human,” and all that. The more flawed our characters, the more believable and relateable they are.

I’ve been watching Veronica Mars with the crew for ReWatchable, a podcast we put together to rewatch oldies but goodies — those shows that aren’t airing anymore, but were so amazing we have to watch them again. In some cases, we’re introducing the show to people that have never seen it before, and they get to talk about their experiences with the superfans.

This is my role for Veronica Mars. I’ve seen bits and pieces before, but definitely not the whole thing. So far I’m loving it, and part of that has to do with Veronica Mars — the character.

Veronica is a complex character, and she’s got tons of flaws. That might sound like a bad thing, but I think it keeps her real. If she always solved the crime by dinnertime (50 points to Gryffindor if you know that reference) she would feel more like a superhero then just a plain old super sleuth.

Veronica gets things wrong sometimes. Sometimes she’s duped. And sometimes her life really, really sucks.

All of that adds up to make a three dimensional character. It’s important to remember that when building our own characters. Veronica is a little arrogant and a lot cynical. She doesn’t usually see the good in people, and sometimes that can ruin her relationships with others.

But people are really like that, and the more human they seem, the more the viewers or readers will be invested in that character. They want Veronica to be right. They want Veronica to grow as a person. They want Veronica to finally trust other people.

And when it inevitably happens, it’s going to be that much more rewarding.

Have you seen Veronica Mars? What other characters can you think of that have a lot of flaws but eventually learn and grow because of them? Do you usually have trouble writing flaws into your own characters? (I know I do.)

The power of ‘Doctor Who’

Posted: September 16, 2013 in TV Shows
Tags: , ,

Doctor Who Ten and ElevenThe other day I finally sat down and watched a couple Doctor Who specials that I had somehow missed the last two times I watched the series. These were “The Waters of Mars” and “The End of Time,” both parts.

The Eleventh Doctor is my favorite. I love David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, but Matt Smith’s childlike personality endeared me to him in ways that Tennant could not. They are two different people, really, even though they’re the same Doctor. But whereas Ten was a little deeper and a little darker, Eleven made you want to wrap your arms around him and tell him everything was going to be okay.

So even though “The End of Time Part 2″ was that transition from Ten to Eleven, I definitely got teary-eyed. When he said, “But I don’t want to go,” something inside me broke, both for the character and the actor.

And that got me thinking. Doctor Who is an incredible show for so many reasons, but one in particular really stands out to me. Our favorite characters come and go — and that includes the Doctor. What other show sees the main cast change so frequently, and yet it still remains very much the same show?

There was Rose and Martha and Donna and Amy and Rory and Clara. All of them are gone now, save for the last. Maybe not permanently, but definitely on the whole they’re out. All those wonderful characters, the people we’ve fallen in love with, are gone.

And yet we’re still here, watching the show.

I think that’s a testament to the writers, to the actors, and to everyone else involved in the show. It’s such a high-class production that you can steal away character after character, and yet the show remains loved because it still has the same feel to it. When actors are replaced or characters are killed off — main characters, I mean — sometimes the show can flop right then and there.

But not Doctor Who. This show is in a category all by itself.

I wish I could explain it better. I wish I could put my finger on why it works so well, but instead I’m going to toss the question over to you, because I’d really love to know your thoughts.

Hemlock Grove PosterI just recently got into Hemlock Grove at the suggestion of a few friends, and I’m really enjoying it so far. But it is weird. Like, really weird. And kind of disturbing.

Okay, a lot disturbing.

If you’ve got a weak stomach, this show isn’t for you. Within the first episode you see a girl being torn apart by something, and in the next episode you see a man turn into a wolf. And this is not your grandmother’s werewolf change. If you want a peek, check out the video below.

 

RIGHT!?

But this isn’t the only part of the show that’s disturbing. Some of it is a bit more subtle (anything would be more subtle than that transformation), but no less uncomfortable. I won’t spoil it for you, but there’s a part with Roman and a girl he sees in class that, well, is pretty strange.

But is there value in this? Is there a purpose to making the audience uncomfortable and grossed out? I’m not even just talking about the horror element of it, but also the taboos we have as a society. The kinks and fetishes that no one talks about but everyone knows exists.

Is there a point to putting that on television?

I would absolutely argue yes to that. I would like to think that a writer — a good writer — would put these elements into their story for a reason. While there is value in the horror elements simply for the scare, these should, ideally, have a second layer to them, something more significant. Otherwise you’re pretty much left with Paranormal Activity 1-63 (or whatever number we’re on now).

So, what’s the significance of these elements in Hemlock Grove? I honestly don’t know. I’ve only seen three episodes, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on just yet. I think a lot of it has to do with establishing the personalities of the main characters, as well as taking a realistic approach to the world of the supernatural (as seen in the above video).

I’ll probably revisit this topic when I finish the first season.

Have you seen Hemlock Grove? What do you think about it? Do you think they’re just going for the gross factor, or do you think making the audience uncomfortable has more than just a superficial value? (Please, no spoilers!)